The parcel delivery comparison site ParcelHero says today’s Government announcement that it has appointed a panel of eight retail gurus to ‘diagnose the issues that affect the health of our High Streets’ may be too little, too late.
ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘The new Government panel, chaired by Sir John Timpson, has a brief to “diagnose the issues that affect the health of our High Streets and advise on the best practical methods to help them thrive”. To be brutally honest, the diagnosis is already clear, and it’s terminal unless the Government and retailers act swiftly.’
Explains David: ‘ParcelHero’s latest research suggests that by 2030 over 40% of all retail sales will be online and up to half of our existing High Street stores will have closed. The High Street is sinking fast from the perfect storm of home shopping and ruinous business rates that retailers have been screaming in protest against for some years.’
Says David: ‘Launching the panel, High Street’s Minister Jake Berry MP commented today: “Our future high streets may well feature more homes, childcare centres and gyms to bring people back and ensure that they keep returning.” Frankly, gyms and childcare centres aren’t even going to be sticking plaster over the empty shop windows on our town centres. Let’s hope Sir John’s panel have fresher ideas.’
David continued: ‘We agree about the need for more city centre homes. Our 2017 report, 2030 The Death of the High Street, urgently called for more homes in our towns and cities – but also stated the Government needed to take bold steps to enable empty commercial city centre buildings to have a change of use to residential dwellings, to ensure life returns to our dead city centres after 9pm. So far these regulations remain unchanged.’
Adds David: ‘We all need a reason, or at least an excuse, to return to the High Street. High Street stores must offer a great shopping experience, and more product expertise. Business rates need to be slashed. Most of all, a click-and-mortar approach to retail is urgently needed by stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser. Astonishingly their web pages still link to other retailers’ ‘white label’ sites for large items such as furniture or large electrical goods. Such clunky unintegrated sites have no place in 21st century retail.’
David concludes: ‘Many of the biggest names on the High Street have to get to grips with a combined multiplatform approach to sales: or join the ranks of BHS and Toys R’ Us. It looks a talented panel Sir John Timpson is to chair, and we’re hoping for weightier ideas than gyms from it.’